An MP has paid tribute following the sudden death of a Kent and borough councillor.
Police and ambulances were called to Cllr Cameron Beart's home in Oak Avenue, Minster, on the Isle of Sheppey in the early hours of this morning.
The 31-year-old Conservative represented Queenborough and Halfway on Swale council and had been elected to represent Sheppey on Kent County Council in May 2021.
Many believed he was being lined up as a parliamentary candidate for Sittingbourne and Sheppey to succeed MP Gordon Henderson.
Mr Henderson told KentOnline today: "This has come a tremendous shock to my parliamentary team and me.
"Cameron worked very closely with us on a number of issues affecting Sheppey and helped resolve the problems of so many people on the Island.
"On a personal level, I will not only miss Cameron’s invaluable help, sound advice, and common sense but also his loyalty and friendship.
"Cameron was an outstanding councillor who always put Sheppey’s residents before party politics. He will be sorely missed by many people, particularly his family to whom I would like to extend my heartfelt condolences."
Swale councillor Alan Horton (Con) said: "This has come as a huge shock to all who knew him. My thoughts are with his family and friends as they try to come to terms with the news.
“Cllr Beart was a proud local councillor and a strong advocate for Queenborough and Halfway and the Island.
“In his too-short time as a councillor he made a significant contribution to the local community and whilst we will mourn his loss, we will remember how deeply he touched our lives and the legacy he has left behind.”
Cllr Beart had been due to be at Swale council's regeneration and property committee meeting last night where councillors were discussing the future of Barton's Point Coastal Park at Sheerness and the Central Stadium in Sittingbourne. but instead logged in virtually.
He was one of Swale's youngest councillors when first elected in 2015 at the age of 23.
He was also deputy mayor at Queenborough Town Council and chaired the town's independence day celebrations to commemorate when the Dutch invaded the town in 1667 and eventually gave it back to the UK in 1967.
Former Swale council leader Roger Truelove (Lab) said on Twitter: "Very sad news. He was a young man with considerable political acumen, energy and resource."
Cllr Beart was born and bred on Sheppey, attended Minster College and went on to become a buyer for construction firm BW May and Son.
He was also well known for his social media posts, insisting on keeping Islanders up to date with council issues via Twitter and his Facebook page. He was a staunch supporter of the RNLI and chaired the Sheerness Lifeboat Management Group. He was also a fan of real ale and a regular at the Admiral's Arm micropub.
He was a member of the Kent Association of Local Councils and represented Sheppey on the Swale Joint Transportation Board and Kent Community Rail Partnership.
Kent County Council leader Roger Gough, said: "Everyone at KCC is so deeply shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden death of Cameron
"In his time on this council, and throughout his political career, it is clear he was totally dedicated to improving the lives of people on the Isle of Sheppey and was a fierce fighter for the Island and all who live there.
“He had a particular interest in improving education outcomes with young people getting opportunities so they can reach their full potential. During the water crisis on the Island last summer, Cameron and his county council colleague Andy Booth put in dedicated work to support their communities.
“It is hard to comprehend that someone so young and with such a promising future ahead of him is no longer here. He will be sorely missed by us all."
Fellow Sheppey county councillor Andy Booth added: "I am deeply upset at the sudden and tragic death of Cameron. His strength, courage and enthusiasm for the role of a councillor was beyond reproach. He will be sadly missed.”
Cllr Beart was a member of KCC's planning committee and had served on the children’s, young people and education cabinet committee and the environment and transport cabinet committees.
The Queen Phillippa and Jacey's Bistro and Bar added a tribute on Facebook writing: "It's with such sadness and shock that we send our condolences to Mr Cameron Beart's family and friends. Cameron was a dedicated servant to the people of Queenborough and Sheppey as a whole.
"He was a fantastic person and will be sorely missed. Cameron was always a supporter of our business and all of the businesses in Queenborough and for this we will be ever grateful."
Fellow Swale Tory councillor James Hunt (The Meads) wrote: "I heard this morning devastating news of the death of Cllr Cameron Beart. This is a massive shock to myself and the Conservative Group on the council.
"Cameron was a massive part of my time on the council and was loved by many councillors and residents. A true gentleman and great friend. The Isle of Sheppey won't be the same without him here."
Last year Cllr Beart was nominated for a national best councillor award. He said at the time: "It really was a tough competition. Sitting there and listening to the stories of all the other councillors and what they've been up to showed what local government is actually all about."
Since news of his death was revealed, residents rushed to social media to express sadness including Mike Kirkham-Ingram who summed up many thoughts by writing: "We have definitely lost one of the key fighters for the Island."
Phil Crowder, chairman of Sheerness Town Team, added: "So shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Cllr Cameron Beart. This is a great loss to the Island that he worked tirelessly to improve."
Police confirmed officers attended a property in Oak Avenue, Minster-on-Sea to help South East Coast Ambulance Service with a "medical incident". The cause of death has so far not been released.
On Sunday night Queenborough Town Council organised a candlelit vigil for its deputy mayor. Many arrived from all over the Island to light tea-lights at the bottom of the town's flag pole in memory of a councillor much-missed by members of all politcal parties.